Somewhere in the ITV drama department, underneath a bust of Julian Fellowes or behind Tosh’s last bottle of whisky, is a dog-eared piece of paper with the channel’s detective show formula on it. It isn’t a big piece of paper. In fact it could easily be a post-it note.
Just like Taggart, Cracker and a thousand other eponymous detectives before her, Vera is a socially-detached oddball with more issues than a Metro vendor. Yet we mustn’t really blame ITV for that. We’ve yet to meet a TV detective who doesn’t have a drink problem or a litany of broken relationships. Things have been that way since Arthur Conan Doyle invented crime and they’ll still be thus when Lewis’s assistant’s assistant’s assistant’s assistant is cruising Oxford in a hover-car many centuries from now. We should just be thankful that Brenda Blethyn’s Northern sleuth is modelled on Jack Frost, making her far more interesting than the chronically overrated Morse..
After an interesting first series, in which Vera divided opinion yet managed to consolidate a healthy audience of over six million viewers, with almost no fluctuation, Paul Rutman’s troubled detective is back on her screens. Vera herself may have mellowed somewhat after contracting angina (she’s cutting back on drinking and shouting) but everything else is much the same. Her sidekick is still far too young and pretty to be a policeman – let alone a father of three, the North of England still looks like some washed-out, grim suburbscape from The Killing and Brenda Bleythn’s accent still oscillates between Mrs Doubtfire and a bad impression. Yet there is something watchable about Vera.
It’s not the plot of this first episode, which quite frankly, is bloody mental. So it must have been Brenda Bleythn, who despite the various problems she’s faced with, just about manages to make Vera a believable character. Vulnerable yet caustic, warm-hearted and ever so slightly ruthless. Just don’t get us started on that hat..